VOLUME 104 NUMBER 9
Adar 17, 5783
March 10, 2023
PARSHAS KI SISA
Candlelighting Time 5:43 PM
Perhaps one of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of our nation is that of the Golden Calf. Rashi explains that Moshe told the people that he was going to be gone for 40 days. However, they misunderstood how to count the 40 days and they included the day that he left. Since they were off by a day they expected Moshe to return one day earlier and when he didn’t they were terrified that they had lost their leader. What transpired afterward is somewhat bizarre and requires explanation. They demanded from Ahron that he construct a replacement for Moshe and that way they would be able to continue their journey to Israel without Moshe. Rashi cites the Talmud that they were seeking gods to replace Moshe. Nachmonides disagrees with this interpretation and explains that, of course, they were not in search of gods but rather they felt that since Moshe had been their leader and he was so closely connected to Hashem, they required another means to connect with Hashem. He takes the stance that the Sages did not actually connote that they were involved in anything approximating idolatry.
Meshech Chochma written by Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk approaches this affair actually assuming that the nation revered Moshe on a godly platform. Although Nachmonides opposes that mode of thought, Meshech Chochma embraces that theme and explains what occurred in the following manner. The human mind cannot envisage that which is infinite. Therefore, we find that amongst the nations of the world they would ‘minimize’ their gods into physical realities. The intellect can focus upon that and it opens up a route to connect with a divine entity that they have no conception of. However, the Torah abhors that type of notion and obligates us to relate to Hashem despite the fact that we are incapable of envisioning Him. Therefore, we believe that everything which exists in the universe from the smallest of creatures to the largest is only a reality in as far as Hashem wills that creation should exist. And should it be the will of Hashem that a particular creature should cease to exist, then it will disappear from off the face of the earth, which is the reason behind certain species of animals becoming extinct, they ceased to serve a purpose.
The likes of Moshe we will never see again until Moshiach arrives and liberates us from this protracted exile that we find ourselves in presently. However, he was larger than life and his impression upon the nation was that he was actually of divine nature. Of course, they realized that there is only one true Hashem, but they believed that Hashem had invested in Moshe a presence that was elevated from the entire universe in the sense that he functioned as though within his own realm of existence. Therefore, he was truly irreplaceable and the only way that they could continue to function as a nation under the banner of Hashem was to recreate such a relationship with Hashem that replicated that virtual reality that Moshe projected to them.
Difficult to comprehend but perhaps with some thought we can actually perceive their mistaken notion. After all, don’t we trust in the almighty American government as our guardians despite the fact that we witness corruption especially nowadays at almost every level of their operation including our hallowed FBI and the report recently that our military was involved with the drug cartels at the Mexican border. Nonetheless, we feel smug and secure that we are defended and protected by our country’s defensive posture. We don’t live a life of worry and concern but rather one of calm for the most part and serenity. Moshe far surpassed the aforementioned scenario as he led them out of Egypt without military intervention and assaulted the Egyptian empire with ten horrible plagues and then supported a crossing of the sea without any artificial assistance, quite impressive!
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Shabbos is the most precious gift that we received from Hashem identifying our relationship with Hashem much as a bride and groom. As long as we maintain our observance of Shabbos, then we know that we have a strong connection with Hashem. However, if we are lax in our Shabbos participation, then our affiliation with Hashem will suffer as well. CHOFETZ CHAIM